Larman's Laws of Organizational Behavior

Revision as of 08:47, 24 February 2019 by Clarman (talk | contribs)

(Russian translation here) (Japanese translation here)

After decades of observation and organizational consulting, here are Larman's Laws of Organizational Behavior. These are observations rather than laws to follow ;)

1. Organizations are implicitly optimized to avoid changing the status quo middle- and first-level manager and “specialist” positions & power structures.

2. As a corollary to (1), any change initiative will be reduced to redefining or overloading the new terminology to mean basically the same as status quo.

3. As a corollary to (1), any change initiative will be derided as “purist”, “theoretical”, “revolutionary”, "religion", and “needing pragmatic customization for local concerns” — which deflects from addressing weaknesses and manager/specialist status quo.

4. As a corollary to (1), if after changing the change some managers and single-specialists are still displaced, they become “coaches/trainers” for the change, frequently reinforcing (2) and (3).

5. Culture follows structure.

Or, Culture/behavior/mindset follows system & organizational design. i.e., If you want to really change culture, you have to start with changing structure, because culture does not really change otherwise. By the way, this is an observation in large-scale; in small start ups, it's the reverse: structure follows culture (org design follows mindset).

And "culture follows structure" (in large scale) is why deep systems of thought such as organizational learning are not very sticky or impactful by themselves in large scale, and why systems such as Scrum (that have a strong focus on structural change at the start) tend to more quickly impact culture — if the structural change implications of Scrum are actually realized.

I discovered that the well-known systems-thinker/advocate John Seddon also observed this: "Attempting to change an organization’s culture is a folly, it always fails. Peoples’ behavior (the culture) is a product of the system; when you change the system peoples’ behavior changes."